The Chicago Cubs have realized the true value of Ben Zobrist

(Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
(Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /
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Most of us knew this already. So did the Chicago Cubs. But it’s become apparent that his value to this ballclub cannot be understated.

The Chicago Cubs have been a machine in the last few years. Four-straight playoff appearances, a World Series title. But they haven’t done that without shiny gears in the machine. The Cubs have paid the price–a hefty price to build this machine.

They’ve even shipped a few pieces that got some polish elsewhere, and are shiny pieces for other teams. But with those shiny gears, you need a linchpin. And the Cubs has come loose. That ‘linchpin’ is none other than Ben Zobrist.

Zobrist can’t solve every issue that the Cubs have. He can’t pitch, but the Cubs have and will continue to address that as the deadline nears. But if Zobrist in on the roster, the need for Carlos Gonzalez might not have happened, and the second base spot would be under control–at least better than it is now.

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While the Cubs struggled out of the gate, the offense and Zobrist weren’t really to blame. In the Cubs first 12 games, Zobrist was slashing 308/.438/.308 with an OPS of .745.

In his last 14 games before heading to the restricted list, his line was .182/.255/.205 with a .459 OPS. I’m only speculating, but this may have been a time when the personal issues he was having off the field began to weight heavily on Zobrist.

Now in his age 38 season, he may have taken his last at-bat as a major leaguer. It’s not a given, and Theo Epstein has spoken to the possibility he may return before the end of this year. Even with that, Zobrist’s value and what is missed with him not on the roster has been evident.

Second base has been a crapshoot, with David Bote (.791 OPS) leading the way over Addison Russell (.734) and Daniel Descalso (.555). Descalso was supposed to be an excellent option to mix-in against righties, but he’s been so bad he’s hardly seen consistent playing time even with a right-hander on the mound.

Zobrist has also been missed in the outfield, especially right field. The Cubs picked up Gonzalez, but he couldn’t find the old Gonzalez in there and was recently DFAd. The Cubs are hoping he’ll sneak through waivers so they can at least have him as a backup in Iowa.

Zo has never been a superstar. But he’s versatile, takes good at-bats, smart on the bases and in the field and a great teammate. You don’t always have to be the guy who hits 40 home runs or knocks in 100 runs to be an MVP, as Zobrist showed in the 2016 World Series.

Next. Is it time to hit the panic button on the rotation?. dark

The linchpin is out, and the Chicago Cubs are scrambling to find another before the season ends like it did last season. In disappointment. Maybe Zobrist will return, but I can assure he won’t be the same player. But having him on the team down the stretch would be more valuable than I think most would realize.